I will admit that I got into George R. R. Martin's books a bit later in the game than most. I'd heard about the series being made into a show with the author's supervision (which is a rare thing in itself), and realized I'd had the books sitting on my shelf, but hadn't cracked them open in a while. So, I played a game of beat the clock, trying to read all of the intricate plot details so I could watch the series and spot the differences.
In both reading the first book, A Game of Thrones, and watching the first season of the show, I was extremely pleased with the character of Tyrion Lannister. Very often, epic fantasy books take the archetype of the hero as being someone who is completely unprepared for adventure and thrust them into a larger world so they can achieve greatness. Martin does this very well with Tyrion. Tyrion is a dwarf, and in the time frame that Martin uses for his parallel world (that of Medieval Europe), he is looked upon with disdain because of his physical deformity.
However, Tyrian is balanced by an extremely high level of intelligence, wit, and perception of those around him. He is by no means a fighter, but is introduced to the readers and watchers as someone who seeks pleasure – be it from good conversation, drink, or (ahem) more sensual engagements. Tyrion, despite his size and treatment by most of the Lannister family, has one weapon that could bring anyone to their knees – his mind (get your thoughts out of the gutter). On his way to Castle Black, he tells his Jon Snow (Eddard Stark's bastard son) as much when he stated that he likes to keep his wits as sharp as Jon keeps his sword.
Tyrian Lannister, at one point, finds himself jailed, but confesses to the crimes of sleeping around and being short – in essence, through wits alone, he was set free simply by bragging. When he found himself in a trial by battle, he was able to talk a mercenary to stand in for him. For followers of the Game of Thrones television series (as well as the books, but I don’t want to jump ahead and spoil it for viewers), we have seen Tyrion go from a carousing pleasure seeker to playing the intricate game of politics for his own hide and the good of the larger picture, to finding himself as a strategist and military leader in his father’s army, when he was expected to (at best) fail miserably. Yet every single time, his brain and heart prove to be larger than any person involved in this great conflict.
Can you see why I like Tyrion? In doing a little bit of research, it seems he has become quite the popular meme, and there are two reasons for this. First, Tyrion is portrayed perfectly by Peter Dinklage in the Game of Thrones television series. He is able to capture the personality of a person born to nobility that is even shunned by his family, and can trade off between humility, bravado, and being a bit sarcastic in a self-effacing way without coming off like someone with multiple personalities. Second, I think most people can, on a metaphorical level, relate to Tyrion. Sure, lots of people gravitate toward the great hero. (At one point, I even though Ned Stark might be my favorite hero, because as events unfolded in the series, he got off lucky.) However, Tyrion is supposed to be the embodiment of physical setbacks that cause us all to compensate and create defense mechanisms to succeed in life. Maybe some people aren't as physically fit as others. Others may feel very awkward when interacting publicly. Some people may not have gotten the best grades in school, or (currently) lead the most successful social lives. Tyrion shows that those things can be overcome with wit, intelligence, a heavy dose of humor, holding to a strong set of ethics (even if some of those may be unethical), and going above and beyond to make the most of your situation – and if that means not playing by rules the others are trying to impose, so be it.
Let's face it, George R. R. Martin has given us a number of characters to identify with in the books and on the screen. Some identify with Ned Stark for being the humble man who is greatly wronged for simply trying to do the right thing for the greater good. Others identify with Daenerys Targaryen for trying to get a foothold as an outsider in a savage land. I'm sure there are those who identify with King Joffrey (and what small bitter people they truly are), but I'll take Tyrion Lannister any day. As a matter of fact, if you take away the nobility, quick wits, ability to get along with women, and leadership abilities, I'm more like Tyrion than most.
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